Pat Leonard: Dan Quinn’s Washington hiring leaves questions as Giants DC search drags on

NEW YORK -- Dan Quinn’s hiring as the Washington Commanders’ new head coach doesn’t shake the ground in the NFC East the way Ben Johnson’s would have if he’d left Detroit.

Certainly not the way a Bill Belichick, Mike Vrabel or Pete Carroll hiring would have, either.

To begin Washington’s ‘new day’ under owner Josh Harris, the Commanders could have rattled the cage a lot more than this.

Quinn went 43-42-0 in 85 games as the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach from 2015-20. He will be delegating the offense, not running it. He is a familiar foe, a known commodity. He coughed up a Super Bowl to the Patriots in the most painful of ways.

Washington still holds the No. 2 pick in April’s NFL Draft. New GM Adam Peters, who once chased mobility and a high ceiling with Trey Lance in San Francisco, will likely have the opportunity to select North Carolina QB Drake Maye. But it remains to be seen who Quinn will hire as his offensive coordinator because right now the Washington fan base is left a bit unfulfilled.

They (justifiably) fired a defensive second-time veteran coach in Ron Rivera only to hire another. And they appeared to be in no rush, either. Quinn didn’t get the gig until Johnson bowed out and Ravens DC Mike MacDonald took the Seattle Seahawks job.

Not that Quinn won’t have success. He does have pedigree on defense. Just ask the Giants.

The Dallas Cowboys bludgeoned the Giants twice a year head-to-head with Quinn’s defense smothering them, going 6-0.

That’s right: Quinn never lost to the Giants as Dallas’ DC. The Giants averaged 13.16 points against his defenses in those games.

But the greatest and most consistent threat a team can create in the modern NFL is a high-powered offense and the ability to keep pace with points.

Dak Prescott’s production makes the Giants permanent underdogs when they face Dallas. Jalen Hurts’ Eagles beat them three times in 2023, smoking the Giants in last year’s playoffs.

Washington is the only team the Giants have had any recent sustained success against in their division. Sam Howell wasn’t bad, but a star head coach paired with a star new QB would have list that franchise up for a hopeful future.

Go ask the AFC West teams who have to face Patrick Mahomes twice a year, Josh Allen’s AFC East opponents and the AFC North teams who constantly have to take on Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow:

Typically, a top quarterback is what sets the top teams apart.

This is the same reason Giants GM Joe Schoen has to consider a plan for a possible future without Daniel Jones past 2024:

An explosive offense and a top QB is required to achieve lofty NFL goals. The Giants have one of the worst offenses in football.

GMs, coaches and players get trophies when their team can score. They get pink slips and an escort to the street when they can’t.

Defense matters, too, however, in a big way. And right now, while Washington has the leader of its new defense, the Giants are still searching for theirs nearly four weeks since Wink Martindale walked out of their building.

The Carolina Panthers say the plan is to keep Ejiro Evero on Dave Canales’ new staff, so if that happens, it leaves Brian Daboll without a clear solution entering a pivotal third year.

Quinn’s jump to Washington means that three of the NFC East’s four teams now have a head coach or coordinator who recently called plays for Cowboys: Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy, Eagles OC Kellen Moore and Quinn.

He also interviewed for the Giants’ head coaching job two years ago and pulled his name out before Daboll got the job.

For now in New York, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka is tracking to be the lone returning Giants coordinator from 2023. There are still some teams with open OC jobs that conceivably could try to poach him away, but that list is shrinking.

All that is to say that regardless of Washington’s hire, the Giants have their own mess to clean up. And certainly they haven’t had an answer for what Quinn has thrown at them the past three years from Dallas.

It just would have felt a lot more bleak if a third-division rival had gotten on the NFL’s modern offensive bandwagon. Time will tell if Quinn can find his next Kyle Shanahan, his one-time offensive coordinator in Atlanta, to restore the pride of that landmark franchise.